Menswear Board Shorts or Swim Trunks?

You’ve planned out your Hawaiian vacation right down to the tours you’re taking and the restaurants you want to try. Thanks to the internet and sites like Viator, PlanetWare, and TripAdvisor, you can get a the best deals on hotels and flights, and have a pretty clear idea about where you want to eat, and what you want to see and do on your island vacation.

One thing you can count on is that water will be involved in one way or another, whether you’re lounging around the hotel pool, swimming under a waterfall, day sailing, surfing, or any number of other outdoor water activities. You’ll need swimwear, so the question becomes: board shorts or trunks?

The Evolution of Men’s Swimwear

At the end of last summer posted a video highlighting 100 years of men’s swimwear detailing the fashion changes from 1915 to 2015. It’s a fascinating visual celebration of a century of style in three minutes. Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, recreational swimming was akin to skinny dipping. Even President Teddy Roosevelt swam naked in the Potomac River, and lots of college swim teams took to the water in the nude, too.

When swimwear first became a thing, men weren’t allowed to bare their chests. One-piece wool suits came on the scene first, followed by tank suits in the 1920s. By the 30s, men were allowed to bare their chests and men’s swimwear was forevermore bottoms only. Trunks were increasingly smaller with each passing decade until 1960, when the Australian Speedo brand introduced the famous body-skimming Speedo swim briefs. The trend began to reverse in the 1970s, with men’s swimwear that was adorned with belts, zippers, and other stylish details.

menswear shorts swimming trunks summerBy the 1990s, long, loose-fitting board shorts arrived on the scene, particularly among U.S. surfers. Soon they were popular among men everywhere. Brazilian sunga swim briefs have since made a comeback alongside swim trunks, and there is continued popularity of board shorts.

A Matter of Taste and Body Shape

The first rule of thumb in choosing swimwear is to find something you really like that suits your body shape. Since you’ll likely only have one or two swim suits in your wardrobe at a time, buy a quality piece that is made well from comfortable, quick-dry fabric. Why skimp when you’ll probably wear it every day of your vacation? And probably on multiple vacations?

If you’re a tall, well-built guy who looks like you work out, you’ll look good in pretty much anything. Let your willingness to let it all hang out or be modest guide your swimwear decisions. Tall, slender men will look good in board shorts with a good cut and an 8” inseam. Choose solid colours or any prints but vertical. Big and tall men without much muscle tone will look best in dark-coloured board shorts that don’t have a baggy cut. Stick with solids, small prints, or vertical stripes.

Menswear Board Shorts or Swim Trunks?

On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re a shorter man with a great build, the best style for you will be surf trunks with 6” seams. Also, choosing surf trunks with vertical patterns will look even better. If you’re short and slender, go for swim trunks or board shorts with no longer than a 7” inseam. Stay away from large, bold patterns, opting instead for solids, small prints, or vertical stripes. You can further accessorise your summer outfit by grabbing some sunglasses, waterproof jewellery or a travel bag to fit it all into from House of Fraser.

When in Rome …

You know the old saying, When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When you’re visiting a new place, you should try to adapt to the local customs and culture out of respect. What you won’t find is swim briefs (aka Speedos), square cut shorts, jammers, or any other form-hugging styles on Hawaiian beaches. (If you do, just know they didn’t get the memo.) It’s been board shorts only for a long time on the Islands. With men’s swimwear fashion more recently trending toward shorter swim trunks, you’ll spot them on the beach and at the pool, but board shorts still dominate.

Surf trunks are the shortest men’s trunks on the Islands. Reyn Spooner, a legendary leader in Hawaiian apparel, offers surf trunks in his men’s swimwear line. They hit about mid-thigh with 6” inseams. Vintage-style surf trunks are 100% nylon with a fully lined interior. They have back and front side pockets, a Velcro closure, a front tie, and come in two solid colours. Modern multi-stripe surf trunks have quarter top front pockets and a single back pocket. They have the same 6” inseam, but have a net inner lining, inside drawstring, and snap front closure.

Menswear Board Shorts or Swim Trunks?Hawaii’s own Reyn Spooner swim trunks are slightly longer than mid-thigh with a 7” inseam, and are worn low on the waist. They have an elastic waist band with a Velcro closure and drawstring. The quick-dry, breathable fabric is 100% soft peached (a special finish making the fabric velvet-like) polyester for ultimate comfort. They have handy side seam pockets, as well as an interior envelope pocket and a back patch pocket with Velcro closure. The stylish trunks come in a few distinctive Hawaiian prints and colours and all have mesh linings.